Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Internet Catholic information hub launched by Walla Walla parishioner
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the Dec. 16, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
Oddly enough, a massive Catholic internet information hub with global reach really got its start when someone asked the question, “Who are these people sitting in the pews with me?”
The person asking the question this time was Dan Roach, a Walla Walla attorney and member of St. Patrick Parish there.
“Week after week,” he said, “not knowing” about his fellow Catholics, “what they did for a living, who their family was.” He decided there must be a better way to get to know people than only through a parish pictorial directory. “This invisible connection shouldn’t be invisible,” he said.
He admits he’s not particularly involved in technology himself. His law firm still doesn’t have a web site of its own. But he knew there was solid Catholic content out there on the worldwide web, if only there were a way to locate it quickly and easily.
After about four years of development, a false start, investment of time and money, and a very steep learning curve, ourcatholicneighborhood.com went live last July.
Subtitled “Revealing the breadth and depth of the Catholic Church in our world,” the site acts as a portal, a directory, a home, and a search engine for things Catholic on the web. It’s also a spot for those who are moving into a particular area of the country and want to learn about the Catholic resources available.
The more Roach thought about it, the more it wouldn’t go away. “And nobody else was doing this,” he said. “So we did.”
The basics are there. Databases were purchased to provide information frameworks for Catholic entities across the country – from parishes to clergy to Religious to hospitals, and more besides.
Ourcatholicneighbor.com, however, offers more than just information. Built into the site are tools for any Catholic entity to personalize and expand on the bare-bones information available there.
And it’s free.
Parish staff, for instance, can register as site managers for their parish’s web page and begin to add, update, correct, and expand the information offerings.
Individuals submit their credentials to manage a site, and once they’re approved, can work and update a parish page, adding activities, information, and so forth.
Too, there are safeguards built in as well – someone who gains access who shouldn’t have it can be removed almost immediately by the site administrators, Roach said.
“As people start taking control, start adding groups and sub groups, potentially there’s going to be an extraordinary amount of information out there,” he said.
The site’s home page breaks into four main categories: Our Global Catholic Neighborhood, Our Local Catholic Neighborhood, Our Catholic Faith, and Our Catholic Neighors.
In addition, the home page offers a featured web site, a featured charity, and a thought for the day.
Our Global Catholic Neighborhood takes a wider view, offering links to the Catholic Church in the United States, to the Vatican itself, and broken down by continents.
Our Local Catholic Neighborhood offers links to each of the dioceses in the United States, listed by state.
At press time, the Laity section of Our Catholic Neighbors was still in development, but links were up for priests and Religious.
Roach has passed along information about the site to the hierarchy, retired and active, in the United States, as well as Catholic school superintendents and principals, with encouraging results and responses.
“Now we’re telling the Catholics in the pews,” he said.
The potential for growth is enormous and exciting, a step out in faith, for the Faith.
“The whole thing is based on faith,” said Roach. “If it takes off and we need help, we hope we’ll get it. And we will.”